Ex-minister rounds on 'short' Jospin for poll loss

Days before French socialists gather for a conference aimed at healing the wounds of their humiliating election record this year, a veteran party insider has launched a stinging attack on the former prime minister Lionel Jospin.

In a book to be published on the eve of the party's annual conference in La Rochelle next week, Mr Jospin's former secretary of state for housing, Marie-Noelle Lienemann exposed the "self-satisfied, out of touch'' nature of the French Socialist Party. She denounced as "undignified'' Mr Jospin's decision to retire from politics after his defeat at the hands of the National Front leader Jean-Marie Le Pen in the first round of the presidential elections in April. And the 51-year-old left- winger has been personal about her former boss: Mr Jospin, she said, "was always too short to be president of France".

Extracts from her book, called Ma Part D'Inventaire (My Share of the Inventory), published yesterday in Liberation, placed the responsibility for the woes of the French left wing on Mr Jospin. She described his style as akin to that of a "lone pilot'' and said the root of his problem is that "he was never a mayor who shook hands and listened to people's problems". Mr Jospin, she said is not unlike Tony Blair – "part of a dominant culture which panders only to one segment of the population".

In France's elections this year, Mr Jospin was not only defeated by Mr Le Pen in the first round of the presidential vote – causing a run-off between the National Front leader and President Jacques Chirac – but the Socialist Party was trounced and the Communist Party virtually liquidated in the parliamentary poll in June.

For Ms Lienemann, the only solution is to start again and create "a large party of the left, representative of ordinary people''.

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